Premier League: Top to Bottom (part three)
- By Football Burp
Football Burp casts its gaze over the Premier League as it stands after last weekend’s results, collating supporter opinion and offering it up in a convenient, team-by-team format…
11. Aston Villa
General mood: Demoralised after a 2-1 home defeat to Midlands rivals West Brom, leaving them with just 11 points from what on paper looked to be a very favourable opening nine games. Facing up to another season of struggle, albeit they somehow managed to climb to 9th by the end of the last campaign. All those early fears about Alex McLeish starting to look scarily like reality.
Reasons to celebrate: He may have been sent off but Chris Herd looks the part, as does fellow youngster Barry Bannan. Shay Given’s proving to be a very astute signing. Darren Bent has to start scoring from open play sooner or later…right?
Causes for concern: The presence in midfield of Emile Heskey and the notion that it won’t be for the last time. The non-performance thus far of Charles N’Zogbia and Alan Hutton. Fabian Delph’s distinct lack of progression and the ever-decreasing likelihood that Stephen Ireland and Jermaine Jenas will get it together enough to sort the midfield out. Leaking goals and dropping points at home a la Birmingham City last season.
Sample message board quotes: “Every outstanding player we have had during the Randy era we have sold off, with only Bent and Gabby left on the big money saleable ‘assets list.’ The rest are a rag tag of championship quality youth players, players whose best days are behind them, high profile players who have so far never delivered and the occasional great hope. Randy’s final roll of the dice was the incredibly unpopular appointment of Eck (because he does what he tells him), and who though widely respected in the game was the manager no Villa fan in a million years would have chosen. We lost our two best players, Eck himself gambled on Hutton, Nzogbia and Jenas and so far it doesn’t look good for any of those players. Ireland and Delph have failed to really ignite our spineless midfield and the tired backwards passing of captain tedium Petrov hasn’t helped either.
Bannan and Gabby have been superb at times, whilst Clark, Gardener, Albrighton, Delf and Weiman have either done little or featured little. Herd has been sent off and got injured but still looks one of our best players so what does that say? Given is quality, Dunne and Warnock have found form at times but Collins, Hutton and the rest of the defence have been poor most of the time. Its clear that Randy will only sell in January, and if some of the gambles don’t pay off and Eck doesn’t find a system and players he believes in within a wafer thing squad then we will either be relegated or face a relegation battle. And at the moment unless we get a bit of luck i can’t see what will actually change to give us a bit of hope for the season ahead.
“We’ve only lost two games. One to a team sitting 5 points clear in the Premier League, and have shoved 11 goals past Spurs and Man Utd, and one that was helped enormously by a completely ridiculous refereeing decision. We’ve also been 4 seconds away from beating QPR away, who have beat the likes of Chelsea, and beaten Blackburn, who have beaten the likes of Arsenal. As well as drawing at Goodison Park – not a bad result. Suppose it depends on your mood doesn’t it.” – holtelower. www.villatalk.com
12. West Bromwich Albion
General mood: Elated after winning two Midlands derbies in the space of a week. Now looking up the table once again after a difficult start to the season and, given the relative paucity of competition, must fancy their chances of a top half finish.
Reasons to celebrate: Local bragging rights, naturally. A manager in Roy Hodgson who seems to know exactly how to organise and get the best out of an unfancied side. Jonas Olsson establishing himself as a very capable top flight centre-back.
Causes for concern: Shane Long faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but at least that presents Somen Tchoyi with an opportunity to nail down in a place in the withdrawn forward role that he has looked effective in.
Sample message board quotes: “I’m not totally sure about how well Pete [Odemwingie] and Tchoyi gel, I don’t think they hit it off as well as Long and Tchoyi. Pete/Tchoyi did OK last game, but for much of last season they looked on different wave lengths to me and the body language between the two didn’t look that encouraging, in my point of view. Last season, to me, unless absolutely necessary, it looked like Pete often didn’t opt to past the Tchoyi, much preferring the Morrison outlet. I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Cox make an appearance now Long is out, perhaps from the bench, but don’t forget there’s also Fortune and now Gera in the mix too.” – Rich99, www.westbrom.com/forum
“After the Swansea debacle, we have seen a steady improvement, whatever the reasons Swansea was a very bad day, I think fans were correct to be concerned, up until this week, I was still concerned by seemingly pointless long ball tactics. I think now we can see a game plan, and Tchoyi is showing his worth, which many fans felt was being missed by Roy. Far be it from me to think I know more than our manager, I don’t and would not pretend to. But, concern was not inappropriate, improved player performances have steadied the ship, onwards and upwards together I hope.” – The Black Pearl, www.westbrom.com/forum
General mood: Relieved to have bounced back from three straight defeats to win 3-1 at Fulham on Sunday, counting their lucky stars after Bobby Zamora’s open goal miss, just as they notched a late winner at Blackburn Rovers after Steve Kean’s side missed two penalties. Still not convinced about this squad’s chances of matching impressive recent league finishes.
Reasons to celebrate: Royston Drenthe looks a class act, the type of player that David Moyes’ Toffees have lacked for some time. Jack Rodwell continues to cement his place with another good performance. Louis Saha is back on the scoresheet – he tends to score bucketloads in patches, so keeping him fit is a necessity. Another good showing from Tony Hibbert at right-back. Influential midfielder Marouane Fellaini supposedly close to signing a new contract.
Causes for concern: The Phil Jagielka-Sylvain Distin axis still can’t seem to keep a clean sheet, with the England man having looked a shadow of his former self so far this season. Apostolos Vellios showed in his first start that he still has some way to go before he’s ready for regular first-team football – and, if Saha picks up an injury, there aren’t many alternatives up front.
Sample message board quotes: “I think Jack [Rodwell] is beginning to look the part. To me, he was more effective than Fellaini in the Fulham game. The only thing that he needs is to vary his passing a bit more. Hit the odd long one instead of always playing the short, safe one. Apparently, the stats show that he coverd more ground than any other player on the pitch in the Chelsea game and his ball retention was 90% for the Fulham game. His goal yeterday was very good and he was unlucky not to score with a header in the first half. He has all the attributes and it is good to see him begin to fulfill his potential.” – Irish Paul, members.boardhost.com/peoplesforum
“I was at the game and Drenthe was great going forward but provided no support for Hibbert and allowed Riise a free ride so he had to be moved. He is a risky player and loses the ball quite often but he does offer pace and something different. Hopefully he can really bed in as the season goes on.” – Jezzneyhawks, www.bluekipper.net
General mood: 2-0 win at Bolton, achieved off the back of a good second-half performance, has assuaged the dissent against Steve Bruce at least for the time being. Poor performance of the opposition still leaves room for doubt.
Reasons to celebrate: Stéphane Sessègnon looking like a class act. The foraging David Vaughan has settled into the side well. Young midfielder Jack Colback is beginning to establish himself in the side, and there’s much more to come from Connor Wickham. Goal for Nicklas Bendtner might get him up and running in terms of scoring. Defence kept a clean sheet.
Causes for concern: Poor first half performance at Bolton, notion that a better side would have punished Sunderland. Lee Cattermole continues to look game but rather limited.
Sample message board quotes: “I think that in the last 3 games, we have shown signs of being a very good side going forward. Sess is as creative a player as there is in the premiership and Bendtner isn’t far off being as good as he thinks he is. Throw in the raw talent of Wickham and Ji, the energy of Colbeck and the industry of Larrsen and Vaughan and there are reasons to be optimistic.” – mickey, www.readytogo.net/smb
“Looked to me as though Sess had a free role much of the time. He linked up well playing in the hole behind the front two. He certainly didn’t play a typical right winger’s game. Ironic that odds are on either Sess or Seb will be our first player to miss a game for 5 yellows, as they don’t look your typical dirty player. Good to see that they but get stuck in and try to regain possession rather than letting others do the graft for them. Think Larsson put in a few good tackles which led to good counter attacks too.” – Sunderland Surfer, www.readytogo.net/smb
15. Swansea City
General mood: Pleased to have picked up a first away point but disappointed by the manner of it having been two goals to the good at Molineux.
Reasons to celebrate: Another great display from Joe Allen. Danny Graham seems to be hitting consistent goalscoring form. Popular young defender Stephen Caulker should soon be available for selection.
Causes for concern: Surrendering a two-goal lead against a team that will most likely finish towards the bottom of the league. Leeroy Lita, Luke Moore and Wayne Routledge don’t look any closer to justifying their signings.
Sample message board quotes: “I always knew Allen would make it because he has a great footballing brain and learns all of the time. He will just keep on adapting to the prem and improve game on game. Every manager he’s had has raved about him and i honestly believe that he can achieve what he wants in this game, providing he keeps on working hard. May even eclipse Ramsey at some stage. Has more to his all round game, a complete MF if you like.” – Brynmill Jack, forum.planetswans.co.uk
“There’s been lots to admire in every game that Danny Graham’s played for us IMO, even if he wasn’t hitting the net at first. He’s a smart footballer. Plays the right passes, makes the right runs, gets into the right positions. If we had someone capable of consistently creating openings for him then I reckon he could potentially pass fifteen goals by seasons end, and that would be a hell of a tally in a side trying to stay up. Maintaining strength in depth is always going to be tricky for a club with our budget, which only makes the decision to keep the likes of Butler and Orlandi on the wage bill even stranger.” – Dr. Winston O’Boogie, forum.planetswans.co.uk